For a city with the nickname “The Big Durian,” it can be pretty difficult or overwhelming to find the good durian scene in Jakarta. The city is immense, with more than 14 million people, made psychologically larger by its famously terrible traffic. You’re not going to want to wander aimlessly, hoping to stumble across some good D.
During my last trip to Jakarta at the beginning of April, 2016, I put together this guide with everything you need to find and destroy some delicious durian during your visit to the Big Durian.
How To Get To Jakarta Durian Places
Unless you purposefully book a hotel right next to a durian area (that’s what I did), you’re going to have to face Jakarta’s traffic. I’ve indicated durian in all four corners of the city so hopefully you can find something reasonably nearby.
The easiest way to get there is to buy a SIM card your first day (you can buy one upstairs at Terminal 3 in the duty-free shop) and download two apps: Uber and GrabTaxi.
There’s also a public bus system with routes listed on Google Maps, but I didn’t experiment with it. An Uber ride cost as little as $3 USD to cross the entire city in a comfortable, surprisingly fancy air-conditioned car that took 5-10 minutes to arrive, so I didn’t feel the need to explore other methods of transport.
Types of Durian Available in Jakarta
During the main fruiting season (December-February) you’ll find a bit more variety, but in general these are four classes of durian you will find in Jakarta.
Throughout the year, durian is also driven to Jakarta from all over Java.
In general, locally grown durians aren’t labeled as such unless you go to a special event (like the Durian Festival at Artha Gading Mall). That’s where I purchased this durian, called Buaya — the crocodile durian — which was grown in Jonggol, a district of Bogor.
Bogor is only about an hour’s drive away, and it’s worth considering taking a day trip out to Jakarta if you’re really serious about getting some quality durian (see Day Trips, below).
I paid 120,000 IDR for this Durian Buaya.
A lot of the durian sold in Jakarta is actually grown in Sumatra, the long, skinny island just across the Sunda Strait from Jakarta.
When Sumatra durian arrives to Jakarta, it’s labeled “Medan” durian no matter where in Sumatra it was actually grown. For example when I was there a little probing revealed that my “Medan” durian was actually being shipped from Palembang, in the south of the island.
Medan Durian is kampong, meaning it was grown from seed and is not a named, clonal variety (not grafted). They vary a lot in size, shape, thorn-type, and quality. They may be large or small, with big thorns or little thorns, round or oblong, deliciously good or really pretty terrible. Best case scenario, it’ll looks like this:
Usually Medan Durian has ivory white to light grey flesh, but can also be cream-colored or very occasionally, yellow. It’s hard to tell from the outside if they will have the super sink-your-teeth-into-cream or politely-nibble-around-the-seed level of flesh. Generally, the larger the size of the durian the higher the flesh-to-seed ratio.
Unfortunately, because Medan Durian is shipped from elsewhere, they can often be really terrible. They are typically cut off the tree unripe and never develop a depth of flavor no matter how soft they get (and they let them get really ripe).
So you need to be paying attention and taking an active role in choosing your durian (Scroll down to How to Choose a Durian in Jakarta).
I paid 55,000 IDR for this durian.
Indonesia does have about 60 of its own unique durian varieties, like Matahari or Hepe, but the most famous by far is Petruk.
Petruk originates in Jepara, on the northeastern coast of Java. It’s name stole my imagination the first time I heard of it: a durian named for a long-nosed, jokester of a puppet in Javanese Traditional Shadow Puppetry.
Rob and I traveled to Jepara in the beginning of this blog in order to eat fresh Petruk. We were total durian n00bs, on our first year of durian, and unfortunately I don’t think we actually found the real Petruk.
I don’t think you will find it either. The vendor at the Kalibata Stall sold me this as Petruk, despite the fact that Petruk should have yellow flesh.
Even on his sign (see above) Petruk is shown as having yellow flesh. We asked him at one point about it, and also why all the Petruks in his pile had different shape and color thorns. He said it was because they come from different trees.
So are they all Petruk? we asked.
He insisted yes. It was a great durian, maybe the best I had in Jakarta, so I didn’t really care if the vendor was lying or ignorant of cultivars.
This durian cost 65,000 IDR ($5 USD), so it was also a pretty good price for the quality.
Most of the large, Thai-style durians you’ll see in Jakarta were not imported from Thailand. They were grown in Indonesia, and unlike in Thailand, Indonesians like their durian really, really ripe, even to the point of over-ripeness.
I had one at Raja Durian that was grown in Sulawesi, and it was one of the best durians I bought in Jakarta. Just enormous mouthfuls of perfect, sweet butter.
At the same time, an Othong I bought at another (unrelated) Raja Durian on Arteri Pos Pengumben, was from Bali and it was one of the worst durians I ate in Jakarta. It didn’t ripen properly, and was watery-vinegar in some places and chunks of rubber in others.
Othong is either a direct clone of Thailand’s Monthong, or the seedling of a Monthong. They’re usually found at the indoor durian eateries. They can be quite expensive to buy a whole fruit, up to 79,000 IDR per kilo ($6 USD).
Since the durians are so ginormous, it means that a single Monthong can cost up to 300,000 IDR per fruit ($22 USD)!
Maybe because it’s so expensive, it’s relatively easy to find packets of Othong on Styrofoam trays. That’s what I bought, for the simple reason that they looked delicious.
If you’re tired of gambling on Medan Durians, treat yourself with an Othong now and then. Just avoid the ones from Bali (I could say more on the topic of Bali’s horrible durians but…).
Each package I bought (the one from Sulawesi, and the one from Bali) was around 65,000 IDR ($5 USD).
10 Steps To Choosing A Good Durian in Jakarta
Durian in Jakarta is sold either by weight (kilogram) OR by the fruit. It depends on where you buy it, and I’ve included this information in the individual reviews below.
If you’re buying on the per fruit basis, you can usually get a deal if you buy more, like 3 durians for 100,000 IDR. Otherwise, it’s on a scale.
1) Approach the durian stall and begin inspecting the fruit. DO NOT BUY:
- Intact peduncle, like in Thailand. This means the durian is unripe.
- Brown spots, soft spots, signs of spoilage.
- Dry, yellow, brown thorns and a dark brown or black stem.
- Durians that have already been cut open (if they’re still there, someone else rejected them).
- Any durian with lots of flies on it (duh).
2) Tell the man running the stall, the tukang duren, which type of durian you want (Medan, Petruk, Othong).
3) Haggle over price (either per kg or per each).
4) The Tukang Duren will cut a triangle shaped wedge in the top of the durian and scoops a small bit of cream onto the tip of the knife. He will turn the point of the knife toward you — no need for alarm!
5) Pull the sample off the knife with your thumb and forefinger and pop it in your mouth.
6) Either reject or accept the durian. Recommended: reject the first one.
7) The Tukang Duren will cut open another durian. You taste it again. You can reject it again.
8) Reject once more.
9) Finally he’ll open something that looks promising. You’ll taste. You’ll like.
10) Settle yourself at a table, relax, and enjoy people watching in one of the biggest cities in the world.
Durian Venue Types In Jakarta
There are three main categories of places to eat durian in Jakara: outdoor stalls along major roadways, indoor “Durian Rooms” (Rumah Durian) that serve both fresh durian and some durian desserts, and dedicated durian dessert restaurants that sometimes also serve other food.
Outdoor Durian Stalls typically spring up in clusters along major traffic arteries around the city. There may be four or five or even more stalls under simple tent canopies lining one or both sides of the roadway for a few hundred meters.
During the day the stalls may completely disappear, packed away and leaving the street deserted until a golden hour around 4 PM when they re-emerge to get ready for an evening of durian feasting. Tents and signs, plastic folding tables and chairs, and of course the durians all magically appear, illuminated by bright white lights.
Pasar Mangga Besar, in downtown Central Jakarta, is an example of a street that looks desolate during the daytime, but is a major durian hub in the evening.
Indoor Durian Restaurants (Rumah Durian) are literally known as “Durian Rooms” — indoor shops specializing in durian and durian products. They may import from as far away as Thailand or other islands. One of the indoor durian restaurants I visited was importing durians from Sulawesi, another from Bali.
They’re open for a longer period of the day, meaning you don’t have to wait until nightfall to get your fix. The durian is usually more expensive, but because of that the seller pays a bit more attention to quality. Most importantly, it’s shady and quiet, and often air-conditioned.
Raja Durian in North Jakarta is an example of a Rumah Durian.
Durian Dessert Shops
Shops selling durian desserts but no fresh durian are actually more common than places to buy actual, whole durians. People in Indonesia like the flavor of durian, and they seem to prefer it as a frozen dessert that takes a number of forms.
I have to admit, frozen durian on an oppressively hot equatorial day is really a wonderful gift to humanity.
Common Forms of Iced Durian Desserts in Jakarta
The very most common durian dessert I saw was Sop Durian.
It’s really quite a fad right now, and there are whole restaurants just specializing in Sop Durian.
When I went to Serang, my friend Iwan insisted I visit not one but two Sop Durian shops just so I could really get a taste for what makes a Sop durian. Unfortunately most come with a heavy layer of cheese sprinkled on top, and (being vegan) I didn’t actually taste the full Sop Durian experience. Read the Sop Durian Post.
Another common dessert that I liked better was Es Durian, which is made with shaved ice instead of big chunks (like Sop Durian), and a huge double scoop of frozen durian on top, like ice cream.
However, I found the pink syrup frightening and did my best to eat around it.
I didn’t eat Cendol Durian during my last trip, but I saw it offered on plenty of menus. Cendol Durian is one of my favorite desserts, a bowl of sweet cold shaved ice drowned in a big ladle-full of coconut milk, coconut sugar, and pandan-scented sago noodles.
I also had a Durian Kopyor, which was really interesting. Kopyar is a mutant coconut that fills with a strange textured, fluffy meat. They blend it with durian and a bit of sugar syrup (I was afraid to ask, I just know it’s vegan) into a really delicious, slightly chunky shake. Read the Durian Kopyor Post.
But the best iced dessert I had in Jakarta was the Bau Durian Cup, just plain frozen durian flesh pureed into a melting, ice-creamy softness. Simple, cold, smooth, and pure durian delicious.
They deliver so you can avoid Jakarta’s traffic. If I lived in Jakarta, I would have these folks on speed dial.
Central Jakarta: Mangga Besar
This busy road looks dusty and forlorn during the day, but sparkles at night when all the durian stalls magically appear from somewhere (I really could not figure out where) and set up their canopies along the road. This is definitely a night-time scene, and it’s a great place to people watch from the comfort of a
The durian here is exclusively Medan durian, sold per fruit. I bought a medium-sized durian for 50,000, and later a small one for 30,000. The quality on both was quite poor, but I didn’t reject them and ask for better because I was feeling actually feeling shy, alone on the streets of Jakarta with my limited language skills. A bit of confidence would have gotten me some better durian.
Where: On Jalan Mangga Besar Raya, near the intersection with Jalan Hayam Waruk and beneath the Amaris Hotel Mangga Besar. There are lots of hotels in this area.
North Jakarta: Raja Durian Cafe
In this high-end neighborhood along a canal you’ll find vegetarian restaurants and yuppie cafes, and also this indoor, air-conditioned durian eatery.
The Durian Cafe is open all year and imports mostly Othong, the Thai-style durian, from various places in Indonesia. When I was there, the durian was coming from Sulawesi. It’s expensive at 79,000 IDR per kilo, (which works out to nearly 300,000 IDR per fruit!) but the quality was surprisingly good.
There’s a refrigerator in the back where you can find chilled packets for cheaper. I bought a very hefty piece for 63,600 IDR. We also each had a bowl of Es Duren which was pretty nice.
Where: On Jalan Danau Sunter Utara. The GPS coordinates I took look slightly off, but you’ll find it.
South Jakarta: Kalibata
This long row of outdoor stalls was one of the first places I ate durian back in 2012. Back then it was magically exciting, the roar of the street so close to the crowds of durian-hunters wandering from stall to stall, looking for the best fruit.
It’s another place to head in the night-time, when darkness hides the dust and makes the lights of traffic beautiful.
There are three grades of durian here: Othong, Petruk, and Medan. However, there’s a fair bit of misunderstanding of what those grades should mean. Many of the “Othong” I saw didn’t look like Monthongs, and the Petruks were a wild jumble of shapes and sizes.
I rejected many durians here before I found one to my standards, which was actually quite good. White-fleshed and dense, it had some pretty wrinkles and custardy, slightly bitter flavor.
Where: The Kalibata Durian Stalls are located on Jalan Raya Kalibata across the street from the cemetery (near Taman Makam Pahlawan Kalibata).
West Jakarta: Raja Durian
Unrelated to the other Raja Durian, this is a small open-air shop that spills out onto the sidewalk. They specialize in durian but only have one small table under shade for eating. Most people seemed to be getting their durian as take away.
They sell all three of the durian types here, and the overall freshness and quality was some of the best I saw anywhere in Jakarta. I ordered a Petruk durian and a packet of Othong imported from Bali here. The Petruk was great, the Bali durian pretty terrible. But then my rants on the quality of Bali durian are many.
Where: On Jalan Arteri Permata Hijau, very close to a large shopping mall called Mall Grand ITC Permata Hijau.
Day Trips From Jakarta
There are a few durian producing places less than an hour’s drive from Jakarta that you may want to consider if you’re looking for freshness and quality.
Jatihan Durian Haji Alim
Jatihan Durian Adit
In Jakarta, you have plenty of options of where to get durian any time of year. The average cost of a medium-sized, decent quality durian is about 65,000 IDR ($5) and the same for a packet of Thai-style durian that can vary a lot in quality.
The quality of durian in Jakarta is often pretty low, because the durians are cut and then allowed to ripen until very soft, so you need to be paying attention and have the confidence to reject a few fruits before settling on one.
The highish price and the low quality (and the heat) are probably contributing factors the popularity of durian iced desserts like Sop Duren, Es Duren, Cendol Duren, and Duren Kopyor. These each cost between 20,000 IDR ($1.50 USD) and are a much more affordable and reliable option if you’re really craving some durian flavor.
But if you’re after a real lip-smacking, delicious durian experience, you ought to take a day trip from Jakarta out to the durian-growing regions where you can get it fresh.
Where to eat durian in Jakarta and Indonesia
Use this map to find all the locations mentioned in this blog post, or jump around to other durian hotspots in Indonesia.
Click each pin to find the link to another blog post.